Thursday, 15 November 2012

On Giftedness and Creativity

Parents are often the first to notice the signs of giftedness in their children and they come to psychologists to perform gifted testing. Yet, many parents mix giftedness with intelligence. While intelligence certainly plays the role, the key element in giftedness is creativity. It is ironic that for 50 years after Lewis Terman, who in 1916 first used IQ tests to detect giftedness in school children, the creativity aspect was totally neglected. Only in sixties, researchers started linking giftedness with creativity, in fact they even created a new term "creative giftedness".
Prof. Kyung Hee Kim argues that creativity is often suppressed by parents and society norms, and we should change a lot if want to unlock creative potential in our children. I totally agree with his comments in this recent interview (reprinted below):

Q: Are there programs or activities that parents and teachers can use to encourage children to be more creative?
A: To strengthen children’s creativity, parents and teachers must not only find or develop programs or activities with new techniques, but must first change environments that inhibit creativity. The best creative techniques, or the strongest creative programs, cannot compensate for a culture that crushes creativity. Creative growth demands that we adapt our environments into a creativity-friendly environment. Only through a self-evaluation of our culture to determine the elements that are blocking our children and through the construction of more fertile creative soil can we lead our children to new levels of creative achievement. Individuals are born creative, some more, some less. Creativity is killed first by parents (especially parents who are perfectionists), then later by teachers, schools, society, cultures, and the like. So before we worry about encouraging creativity, we should learn to preserve it. Research has determined that there are many ways to preserve creativity in our children.
Preserve Curiosity: To preserve creativity, children’s curiosity should be satisfied and encouraged. Most children go through a period when they ask a lot of questions to parents, teachers, adults, anyone where they can get answers. Parents take the brunt of this questioning and at times this gets annoying. However, instead of getting annoyed and discouraging this curiosity, parents should take the time to try to find the answers and, probably more importantly, to demonstrate to their curious children how to find the answers.
Focus on Ideas: I watched a mother criticizing her little son because he drew a dog with red fur. If he had drawn wings for his dog, she would have screamed at him. For her, spelling the right words was more important than having ideas or imagination. In contrast, Cathy who is one of the participants of the Torrance’s 40-year (from 1958 to 2008) longitudinal study still remembers that when she was writing essays in fourth grade, the teachers who participated in the study did not emphasize spelling, but emphasized original ideas in the essays. Thus, parents and teachers may not want to always emphasize getting the “right” answers and or even the correct spelling; they should instead peek into a world of child fantasy, imagination, and inventiveness and encourage that ability. They can always help children prepare for being wrong or making mistakes and correcting those mistakes.
Raise Nonconformists: Creative individuals do not like to follow the rules; they tend to follow their own rules. They tend to question and rebel against established norms. Perceptual and mental-sets, well-learned and habitual ways of thinking, and rules and traditions that restrict individuals’ behavior stifle creativity. Thus, parents and teachers should welcome unorthodox views and accept when children have different ideas or want to be different... (Read complete interview here)

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